A naturalized U.S. citizen accused of firebombing an Israeli passenger bus last year was arrested yesterday by FBI agents in New York after being expelled from Venezuela, the Justice Department said.
Mahmoud Mahmoud Atta, 33, a Jordanian native who has said he is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was met by FBI agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport after a flight from Caracas.
Atta was detained in Venezuela last weekend, and the Israeli government issued an arrest warrant for him Sunday. U.S. officials also were notified, and Venezuela, apparently preferring not to send Atta directly to Israel, deported him on immigration violations to his country of origin. Officials would give no details of Atta's capture in Venezuela.
The Israeli warrant, charging Atta with murder and attempted murder, said that he and an accomplice ambushed a passenger bus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on April 12, 1986.
Atta is alleged to have thrown a firebomb at the bus and then, when it stopped, opened fire with an automatic weapon. The driver, Shlomo Hatuka, was shot in the chest and died. Three passengers, also civilians, were seriously wounded in the attack.
The bus was ambushed about 20 miles from Tel Aviv.
Justice Department spokesman John K. Russell said Atta would be turned over to Israel following a formal extradition request.
An affidavit filed by the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn said Atta's accomplice was arrested by Israeli authorities after the bus attack, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Atta, also known as Mahmoud Abad Ahmad, is to appear before a federal magistrate in Brooklyn today.